For the past two weeks, the Hilton Head High wrestling team appeared to be peaking at precisely the right time -- just in time, in fact, to begin its defense of a Class 3-A Lower State title.
In a span of eight days, the Seahawks defeated Battery Creek to clinch their third region title in four years, beat rival Bluffton High School in another dual meet and won a tournament championship sandwiched between the two.
It nearly came to a screeching halt Wednesday night.
The Seahawks escaped with a 42-31 victory against a short-handed Darlington squad -- which fell four wrestlers short of a full lineup -- but they trailed most of the night and certainly lost some momentum for their second-round trip to second-ranked Chapin on Monday.
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"We didn't expect this match to be this hard, so I guess some of us didn't worry about it," said Chris Ordonez, who won his 135-pound match by pin. "You can't do that. You have to wrestle like it's any other match."
The Seahawks almost learned that lesson the hard way. They trailed 31-30 after 12 matches but won the match when Darlington was forced to forfeit the final two bouts.
The Falcons brought only 10 wrestlers on the trip and forfeited four of the night's final five weight classes -- 103, 112, 125 and 130. The Seahawks forfeited at 160 and 171, which coach Mike Newton attributed to injuries and a lack of depth behind them.
The two teams split the remaining eight weights, with the Seahawks looking relaxed, lethargic and uninspired for most of the night.
In addition to Ordonez, Nick Tennison (119), Campbell Miller (140) and Nick Bautista (189) won for the Seahawks, with Bautista giving Hilton Head High its only other pin of the night.
"We definitely didn't wrestle to our ability," Newton said. "The attitude tonight was not the same it has been the past couple weeks."
The effort undoubtedly will need to better for Hilton Head High's second-round opponent -- Chapin is the top-ranked team in the Lower State and No. 2 overall in Class 3-A. Chapin has six wrestlers ranked first or second in their respective weight classes, giving it depth few other teams possess -- including the Seahawks.
"We'll need more intensity than we had tonight," Newton said. "Some of the matches we lost tonight, we can't lose those kinds of matches Monday. We need to win any match we have the possibility of winning."
Hilton Head High 42, Darlington 31
Note: Match started at 135 pounds
103: Tyler Fick (HHH) won by forfeit.
112: Label Lewis (HHH) won by forfeit.
119: Nick Tennison (HHH) def. Kendrick Jackson, 5-3.
125: Richard Jenkins (HHH) won by forfeit.
130: Matt Johns (HHH) won by forfeit.
135: Chris Ordonez (HHH) pinned David Powell, second period.
140: Campbell Miller (HHH) def. Tyshawn Williams, 8-6 (2 OT).
145: Tyler Geralds (D) pinned Jawaan Brown, first period.
152: Stephen Giles (D) major dec. Aaron Facenda, 18-9.
160: Oliver Chandler (D) won by forfeit.
171: Dylan Parris (D) won by forfeit.
189: Nick Bautista (HHH) pinned Markel Robinson, second period.
215: Alex Lundy (D) def. Luke Barsness, 13-6.
285: Quentin Sparks (D) pinned Doug Bell, first period.